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The Best Ways to Carry Serving Plates like a Professional

Are you starting a new job as a waiter/waitress or do you just want to improve your serving skills? Carrying food and drinks can be one of the most stressful parts of your job. You have to move quick and you have to make sure you don't spill anything on the diners! Apologising for spilling soup on a customer's shirt can become a horrifying experience in your career (especially if you're not used to dealing with angry customers). But don't fret, we're here to help. Here are the best ways to carry serving plates so you can become a pro!


And don’t forget, as you’re constantly dealing with food and utensils and potentially customers, it’s really important to keep washing and sterilising your hands regularly to avoid possible cross contamination.




The best ways to serve...

How to carry two plates

Carrying two plates is the most common method of carrying plates in today's restaurants. 


For the two plate method:

  • Flatten your three fingers (excluding the little finger), these fingers will go beneath the plate and will be used to keep it balanced.
  • Your little finger will then be held directly beneath the rim, this gives you extra stability as you walk. 
  • Finally the thumb is used on the upper side of the rim to make the plate secure.

Don't let your thumb touch the food. 


Keep the plate straight and held near shoulder level (but away from your face), this helps avoid knocking your plates into anyone as you make your way over to the table.


How to carry three plates

Many restaurants will only want their food servers to carry two plates at a time but you may also be asked to carry three. You should always practice before carrying three, it's not a technique you want to try for the first time in the restaurant during peak times.


  • Take one plate and place it on your right hand, your three middle fingers should be together, and your thumb and little finger should be raised up. The three fingers hold the plate whilst the little finger and thumb keep the plate steady.
  • Take your second plate and rest the center on the thumb muscle of your right hand. Try moving it around to see the best place to balance the plate on your right hand is, some people prefer balancing the plate on the wrist. You can use your little finger to help stabilise the first and second plate.
  • Finally pick up the third plate with your left hand. 


Don't let the second plate get too close to the first plate as you don't want to ruin the presentation of the food or let food fall.


Always take time to practice with three plates. Try practicing with both hands. It's okay if you prefer carrying two plates on your left instead of your right, many servers have a preference.


Tell your manager if you're not comfortable carrying three. They'd rather you carry two instead of dropping three. 


Tip - Keep your serviettes out of the way

If you're expected to carry a table napkin with you at all times, don't carry it over your shoulder. You might often see waiters and waitresses carrying a serviette over their shoulder on television or even in real life but these people shouldn't. When carrying two or three plates, you haven't got any hands free to catch your napkin if it falls and drops on the food or on the floor (trip hazard!). Keep your serviette in your pocket or in a place out of the way you can grab when you need it.



How to carry plates on trays

All beginners know that trays can be a tricky technique to master but once you've had a practice you'll be fine!


  • Hold the tray underneath with the palm of your hand. Your hand should be at the centre of the tray and hold it up just over your shoulder. 

Never carry the tray in front of you or by your side. When carrying the tray, keep your face forward and if you need to talk to someone, turn your body around so you're not talking over the food. Also, make sure your hair is tied back.

  • Most restaurants will expect you to place your tray onto a tray jack so you can serve.
  • Keep your back straight and lower your knees to put your tray down, this helps protect your back and keep plates from slipping.
  • Then serve the plates.


Practice makes perfect!

If it's your first time serving, you will likely get some training with your manager before you start but if you want to make a good first impression, there's no harm getting some practice at home. Some restaurant plates may be heavier than the plates you have but at least you can practice the technique.


Obviously avoid using the expensive plates, just in case you have some shaky starts, and hold the plates closely over a table or a soft surface to avoid any smashes.


Wear the correct footwear

A common problem waiters and waitresses encounter when carrying plates are slips, trips and falls. These can occur when you are going from one surface to another, like a greasy kitchen floor to the wooden or carpeted floor of a dining area. Slip-resistant shoes help reduce slips and falls at work, making these safety shoes for wait staff ideal for a busy environment like a restaurant.


Getting the right shoes for work can help you avoid potential injuries and damaging the health of your feet or your back. Visit our shop to see out latest styles:





Getting ready for a job interview?

If you're practicing your serving skills for an upcoming interview, then it's important you prepare for the interview questions as well. Here's over twenty questions you'll likely hear in an interview (we've also given example answers to help you prepare). Download your free copy:




Do you have any tips you think we've missed? Tell us any more best ways to carry plates and drinks, and we might add them to our list!


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